Saturday, September 30, 2006

Laura Bush needs a Thesaurus

This essay written by First Lady Laura Bush on the books that influenced her to fight against illiteracy has to be read in full to believe, but here's one excerpt:

"Little Women," Louisa May Alcott's book about a Civil War family, is one I remember vividly, first from reading with my mother when I was little. She read it to me before I could read. The impression it made just shows how important it is to have parents who read and who read to you. That's how every one of us librarians ended up where we did: making our careers out of reading because we loved it so much. First I was a teacher and then, since what I liked best about teaching was reading and sharing literature with children, I became a librarian. Now it is the whole focus of my life, really. And it all started with my mother's love of reading books like "Little Women" to me. I went on to read it on my own, then with friends and my own children.

Reading this essay by Laura Bush about books she has read or been read leads me to think that what she really needs to read or have read to her is a thesaurus.

Unless the intended audience for this Wall Street Journal essay is second graders, it just might not be the First Lady who is the "brains" of this family.

I wasn't expecting a New York Times book review, but other than namechecking the Civil War, all we learned from the First Lady is that she likes to dip into, devour, take in, brush up on, appreciate, leaf through, and enjoy a good book every now and then (Link for Laura).

I didn't know that the first lady was a Dostoyevsky fan.

Not sure "The Brothers Karamazov" qualifies as a "fun" read, but it does contain the most spiritual writing that the King of Existentialism ever wrote, in the form of a parable called The Grand Inquisitor (read the Wikipedia article if you're not familiar with this tale involving Jesus Christ). My tastes run more toward Dostoyevsky's "Notes from the Underground" and "Crimes and Punishment" but I wouldn't call any of his work "fun."

To be fair, Laura Bush does add "[m]aybe I shouldn't say 'fun,' given that it is about spiritual struggle, but to read it over and over again at various times in my life was always rewarding." Still silly to bring up "fun" at all, I say, and when she also writes that there's "always a sort of Texas heat" when she returns to the book because she once thumbed through it "while sitting by a swimming pool in Houston," it doesn't make me think more highly of her scholarship. Dostoyevsky isn't exactly pool reading, but I wonder if that's where the President partaked in some Camus.

(Note: a commenter notes, "partaked" should be "partook")

On a more serious note, from my latest Raw Story article, "State of Denial: Two months before 9/11, Rice gave the 'brush-off' to 'impending terrorist attack' warning":

According to a new book written by Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward, two months before the September 11 attacks, then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave the "brush-off" to an "impending terrorist attack" warning by former C.I.A. director George J. Tenet and his counterterrorism coordinator.


Saturday's New York Times review claims that in Woodward's book, Rice "is depicted as a presidential enabler, ineffectual at her job of coordinating interagency strategy and planning."

"For instance, Mr. Woodward writes that on July 10, 2001, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism coordinator, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice to warn her of mounting intelligence about an impending terrorist attack, but came away feeling they’d been given 'the brush-off' — a revealing encounter, given Ms. Rice’s recent comments, rebutting former President Bill Clinton’s allegations that the Bush administration had failed to pursue counterterrorism measures aggressively before 9/11," writes Michiko Kakutani.


Another Post article slated for Sunday's edition provides even more details.

"For months, Tenet had been pressing Rice to set a clear counterterrorism policy, including specific presidential orders, called "findings," that would give the CIA stronger authority to conduct covert action against bin Laden," the uncredited Post article reports. "Perhaps a dramatic appearance -- Black called it an 'out of cycle' session, beyond Tenet's regular weekly meeting with Rice -- would get her attention."

J. Cofer Black later said that "[t]he only thing we didn't do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head."

Full article at Raw Story.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Taliban open office in Pakistan

Bill Roggio has got the lowdown on the latest Pakistan Daily Times article (which will most likely be largely ignored by the U.S. media like usual):

The Pakistani government, led by President Pervez Musharraf, has repeatedly stated the Waziristan Accord does not mean the government has ceded control of the region, and that the deal was between the government and the tribes, not the Taliban. The Daily Times reports otherwise. The Taliban has now officially opened an office in Miranshah, the seat of government in North Waziristan.

“The Darpakhel, Burakhel and Miranshah tribes along with the Taliban have set up an office in Miranshah to bring law and order under control,” sources close to the Taliban told Daily Times. A senior leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman) denied reports that the Taliban alone opened the office in violation of the peace agreement which aimed at preventing the Taliban from running a parallel administrative system. The office was opened on Wednesday and local residents expressed fears that the growing Taliban influence would undermine the tribal code of life.

The Daily Times also reports the Pakistani government and military are no where to be found in Miranshah. The police and Army are absent, leaving the Taliban to fill the security vacuum.

More from the Daily Times:

Residents said the opening of the office meant “Miranshah has been handed over to the Taliban”. Local militants have set up similar offices in the major towns of South Waziristan where they take up civil and criminal cases. Meanwhile, the 10-member monitoring committee for the peace accord will meet Dr Fakhre Alam, political agent of North Waziristan, to discuss the fate of 10 tribesmen arrested in connection with attacks on coalition forces inside Afghanistan.

As intrepid military blogger Bill Roggio notes, the report was confirmed by Reuters, although they hedge at calling them Taliban.

Reuters instead calls them "vigilantes, who refer to themselves as mujahideen, or Muslim holy warriors," and then differentiates them from the Taliban:

Residents were unsure of the exact identity of the vigilantes, though Pakistani tribals who fight with the Afghan Taliban also call themselves mujahideen.

But the group appeared to be setting up a parallel authority, something that would be in breach of the terms of the treaty signed on September 5.

Pro-Taliban tribesmen have already set up a parallel administration in neighboring South Waziristan.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Jon Stewart Kissed Musharraf's Ass

A sad spectacle.

The Associated Press has a short article on The Daily Show tea party:

Jon Stewart welcomed Pakistan's president to "The Daily Show" on Tuesday with tea and a Twinkie. President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's tete-a-tete with Stewart on the Comedy Central program was even more unlikely than the much-anticipated meeting between Musharraf, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Bush, planned for Wednesday.

As a gesture mirroring Pakistani hospitality, Stewart welcomed Musharraf with a cup of jasmine green tea, and offered the more American delicacy of a Twinkie. Musharraf chuckled and thanked the host, though Stewart promptly changed the subject.

"Where's Osama bin Laden?" he asked suddenly.

"I don't know," replied Musharraf. "You know where he is? You lead on, we'll follow you."

Then it went downhill from there. For the rest of the chat, Stewart went out of his way to treat Musharraf as some kind of cross between Mahatma Gandhi and Captain America.

Dan Rather got an awful lot of criticism from the right for "sucking up" to Saddam Hussein, but I'm sure that I'll be of the minority opinion in slamming Stewart for accepting everything that Musharraf said or wrote in his book as fact.

All in all, it was a shrewd appearance for Musharraf. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez could learn a thing or two from Musharraf on how best to woo the American left, that's for sure.

The fact is that Pakistan is just like Darfur when it comes to liberals and many in the Democratic Party.

Hard questions regarding the need to employ a more aggressive foreign policy approach is not something that most liberals want to consider.

But it was extremely disturbing to watch Stewart joke around with a dictator who has in reality done little to spread democracy or fight terrorism, and treat him with more respect and regard than a U.S. President (um...i have little of either for Bush but my point is that Musharraf ain't no saint, ain't to be trusted, and ain't no better than Bush)

From an article called "Punch Lines for Pakistan's President" written by Libby Copeland for the Washington Post:

As usual, much of Stewart's humor was rooted in criticism of the U.S. administration. If Musharraf felt such jokes put him in an awkward position with his ally President Bush -- with whom he met on Friday and is scheduled to meet again today -- he did not say so. Rather, he chuckled and played along. For example, Stewart asked Musharraf if Bush ran against bin Laden in a low-level election in Pakistan, who would win. Musharraf responded that both would "lose miserably."

Stewart asked Musharraf why he hadn't made much reference in his book to America's war in Iraq.

"Is that because you felt like it was such a smart move, and has gone so well that to mention it would be gloating?" Stewart asked.

Musharraf laughed and said of the war, "It has led certainly to more extremism and terrorism around the world."

"So we're safer?" Stewart pressed.

Musharraf laughed again. "No, we're not."

Stewart also asked if Bush pays attention when Musharraf meets with him, or whether he might be, say, watching television or sleeping with his eyes open. The president of Pakistan said the president of the United States paid close attention during their last meeting.

It would really be nice if in at least one fucking media appearance that the host - whether journalist or pundit or comedian - keep it "rooted in criticism of the [Musharraf] Administration" just a little bit.

Note to new readers

Over the last three weeks, since I reported for Raw Story on an ABC report (later denied by Pakistan) that the Waziristan Pact agreed to with pro-Taliban militants meant that Osama bin Laden would get a "free pass," I've written a number of articles which explain why I'm being so hard on Jon Stewart, that can be read at my homepage link.


Musharraf Welcome Committee

From Cornell University's ChronicleOnline:

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf will speak to the Cornell community at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, Tuesday, Sept. 26. The talk, in the college's Uris Auditorium at 7:30 p.m., also will be shown live on Cornell's Ithaca campus.

Musharraf will speak about experiences chronicled in his new book, "In the Line of Fire," released by Simon & Schuster this week, and about contemporary issues and challenges facing Pakistan and the world. He will be introduced by Cornell President David J. Skorton, who will moderate a question-and-answer session following the talk.


Musharraf's visit to Cornell was made possible through the energetic support of the Musharraf Welcome Committee, led by Wasif Syed, a Cornell doctoral student in applied physics, and his colleagues Omer Bajwa, a Cornell alumnus from Near Eastern studies, and Dr. Saeed Bajwa, Omer's father and a neurosurgeon in Binghamton.

From India's NDTV:

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's book In the Line of Fire, which was released in bookstores across America, has seen brisk sales.

His book was seventh on the list of bestsellers of online bookseller


Over the last three days, the author has been splashed all over the American media. From an exclusive on 60 Minutes, to the Today Show on NBC and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

From The New York Times:

Continuing a book tour that would make any American politician envious, General Musharraf is to go where no sitting leader of any nation — certainly not Mr. Bush — has gone before. He is to plug his new memoir, “In the Line of Fire,” tonight on “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central.

There, he will subject himself to questioning by Jon Stewart, the host, whose views on the conduct of foreign policy are unlikely to win him an invitation to the White House anytime soon.

But Mr. Bush must think General Musharraf’s work may reinforce his security message; he told reporters at the White House last week to “buy the book.”

From an Op-Ed at United Arab Emirates' Gulf News, called "Musharraf's rule is no better than others," written by Husain Haqqani, the director of Boston University's Centre for International Relations:

If Musharraf's military regime has failed to bring domestic stability and an end to corruption, has it helped project Pakistan's strength overseas? Alas, the answer to this question, too, must be in the negative.

It is true that Musharraf made the correct choice in allying with the United States in the aftermath of 9/11. But his recent disclosure that he made that choice under the American threat of bombing Pakistan into the Stone Age takes away the credit of any wisdom on his part. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently described Musharraf as being part of an "Axis of Sketchy Allies".

The truth is that Musharraf is muddling through like most of Pakistan's previous rulers and offers little better in key areas such as domestic steadiness, reduction of corruption and external strength. If anything his regime's performance is becoming poorer with each passing day.

If muddling through is Pakistan's best option, it would be better to do so under civilian democratic rule, with a legitimate and representative government. Why persist with dragging the army into politics if the so-called benefits of army rule are just not available?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat down with The New York Times editorial board the other day, and this is all there was on Pakistan:

QUESTION: Okay, looking at a different subject, when the President met with Musharraf last week, the President said he asked him about this Waziristan truce (inaudible) and Musharraf assured him that this would allow him to fight more strongly. And the President sort of lifted his eye and said, "I’ve known this man for five years. I’ve got to (inaudible)." We get very different statements out of Karzai and I think maybe there’s some meeting where they’re all coming together next week.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, they are.

QUESTION: Outside of the proximity of Musharraf, what’s really gotten them --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, they do have a problem with this federally administered tribal area. They brought along the governor, who gave us all a little history lesson about – you know, the last time somebody tried to go in there was the British and before that, it was the Mongols. It was sort of an interesting perspective.

You know, these very traditional, pretty remote areas where outside authority is not welcomed, I think they’re trying to deal with that reality. And they tell us that they intend to deal with that reality in the following way. They intend to make very clear that the Taliban – to have the elders make clear that the Taliban is neither welcome there nor will be tolerated there. Secondly, that Tablianization of that area will not be and third, no al-Qaida.

In order to make that possible, the reconstruction of the area, or I should say, the development of the area needs to take place. Because until the earthquake, this was a part of the country that was really completely remote from – just the kind of connectivity between the country and the tribal areas was very, very weak. And so they’re trying to enhance that connectivity.

Now they believe those two strategies, very clear, no safe haven, and very clear there’ll be a good outcome from that is the way to handle these areas. They told us that they retain the option for the use of military force to do whatever they need to do, but that they believe that, as with very many counterinsurgency problems, the military part of it is a small percentage and the political part is a large percentage.

I think our view is that that strategy has to be given the chance to work. Now it doesn’t mean that you don’t – that you stop aggressive efforts to, based on intelligence, root out cells and the like when you see them. I think there’s an understanding about that. But it is not unlike what we’re trying to do in places like Ramadi and what we did in Fallujah and did in Mosul, where you used the local political structure to try to get by into a counterinsurgency strategy rather than fighting the local structure at the same time that you’re trying to deal with the insurgents.

And so that’s how I read it. I don’t know that it will work. We’ve asked lots of questions about it. I think we’ll continue to ask lots of questions about it; but that it may be the way to deal with the federally administered areas. I think we have to give that a chance to work if that’s what the Pakistanis think. But I think you have to reserve that if there are people who are there who are plotting and planning, that – you know, they have to be rooted out. I think that’s a different matter.

QUESTION: Changing the subject again,

Not that the next question wasn't important, but what the fuck was that? And what the fuck was that question? What the fuck is the point of this interview if there are no fucking follow-up questions?

Some more from long speeches by Rice pre-empted by occasional questions from The New York Times editorial board:

QUESTION: There have been a couple of reports about Usama bin Laden in the last few days. One is that he died of natural causes. The other was – Karzai was on CBS yesterday saying that he’s in Pakistan. I wonder if you think he’s alive and if he’s in Pakistan and what do you know about that.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have no reason to believe he’s not alive. Let me put it that way. I don’t know where he is. I do know that there are people who spend every waking hour worrying about where he is and trying to track and trying to follow the intelligence. And it’s the kind of thing – you saw it with Zarqawi. You know, all of a sudden it comes together and it happens. And I think you just – until then close isn’t good enough. You just have to keep pursuing it.

But it brings me to a larger point and a little bit goes back to where we started. You know, there are two ways to look at what happened or what our strategy had to be after September 11th. And I think what is at the root of what is the relationship of Iraq to the war on terror is that debate is at the core of it.

On the one hand, I think there is – everybody agrees that you have to take al-Qaida down as an organization -- the people who did 9/11. And while Usama bin Laden is very important and we’re pursuing it, taking down their field generals is awfully important. I mean, the Khaled Sheikh Mohammeds, the Ramzi bin Al-Shibs. And you see that by taking down the operational field generals you actually stop attacks. And you have to keep doing that because they regenerate, but they regenerate with less experience and less, you know, battle-worn veterans with each generation that you take down.

Secondly, you obviously have to deal with their safe haven and so overthrowing the Taliban and stabilizing Afghanistan I think there’s a general understanding that that’s very important to the war on terror.

The third question though is: Is that all that you need to do to win the war on terror? And some people – I should add of course homeland security issues and what you can do to protect yourself on the defense, which is where the intelligence is important and the information and surveillance and so forth. All of that is an important part of the war on terror, but is that enough?

And for me, I think I know for the President and others, it’s not. Because there will be future al-Qaidas and there will be future jihadist movements unless you go and begin to change the very nature of the place from which they came, what spawned them to begin with. And that’s where the strategy on the broader Middle East and democratization and in fact Iraq as the kind of linchpin of that different Middle East, because nobody can imagine a different Middle East with Saddam Hussein in it. Whatever you think about the war, I doubt you’d find very many people who say, oh yeah, you can have a different kind of Middle East with Saddam Hussein still sitting there firing at your airplanes and threatening Kuwait and making weapons of mass destruction as we thought because you don’t have transparency into what he’s doing. That Middle East is always going to be one that is malignant and difficult as long as Saddam is there.

In case you missed it, Rice said, "And that’s where the strategy on the broader Middle East and democratization and in fact Iraq as the kind of linchpin of that different Middle East, because nobody can imagine a different Middle East with Saddam Hussein in it."

Thankfully, the Times editorial board woke up when they heard that, as you'll see.

Continuing from Rice's response above:

Now, for us, a Middle East in which Iraq transforms and becomes an example of a national unity government in which Shia are not oppressed but in fact even though they are the majority are able to live in harmony with others in their region is also a very important model for how Sunni and Shia deal with each other in the Middle East.

So it comes to whether or not you think you really have to go at the basic character of the Middle East. And I happen to think that that’s right. And so even if there’s a short-term effect of Iraq as mobilizing, as it did for Zarqawi, people to fight the jihad there, I think there’s a reason that they mobilized to fight it there. They get it. They understand that an Iraq that is transformed is the end of their particular ideology in the Middle East, in the center of the Middle East, and that the Middle East is going to go in a quite different direction.

If I could just say one thing kind of historically because – and please, I don’t mean to try to make an exact analogy here. But Europe fought for more than a hundred years in wars from the Napoleonic wars all the way through to World War I, drew us into their balance of power war. We left. They rearranged the deck chairs in their balance of power war, and 30 years later we were back fighting again.

At the end of World War II though, they didn’t rearrange the deck chairs in a balance of power. What they did was to change the basic structure and you got a democratic Germany, you got NATO, Germany and France never fought again and Europe was at peace, and we haven’t been back to war in Europe – the Balkans notwithstanding – since.

In a sense, I think that’s how you have to think about the Middle East. You’ve got to now change the structure there so that you create an environment in which you’re not going to have these extremist forces, these jihadist forces, the financing of terrorism, the madrasas that are running wild, the authoritarian governments that don’t permit political space for moderate forces so that all of the politics takes place in the radical mosques. Unless you deal with that problem, you’re going to continue to have a very formidable jihadist movement, whether it calls itself al-Qaida or something else. And it will take time to transform that, but you’d better get about doing it. And I think that’s really the debate that we’re seeing.

QUESTION: And Iraq was the center – epicenter of that, in your view?


QUESTION: None of what you said really had anything to do with Iraq.

SECRETARY RICE: No, it has a great deal to do with Iraq.

QUESTION: But you could say – you said – I mean, you described Saddam. You could use that same description to describe half a dozen Middle Eastern – Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran --

SECRETARY RICE: No, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran have not – did not draw the United States into two wars in the Gulf within a period of 12 years. Saddam Hussein had ambitions for the region, married to a lot of wealth, married to a penchant for the development of weapons of mass destruction which he once used, and a willingness to use his power to annex his neighbors, which you would not associate with either Syria or Saudi Arabia, and not even with Iran.

You know, but memories are short but there’s a reason that we went to war in 1991 against Saddam Hussein. It was his ambitions in the region starting with Kuwait and moving forward. The other – so you overthrow this particular threat in the region and you create space for a different kind of Iraq, much like you overthrew Germany’s Hitler and created space for a different kind of Germany. That’s the point.

QUESTION: Couldn’t however – could you not make the argument that (inaudible) right now Iraq and Afghanistan are both failed states and that in a divided and politically weak Iraq, Iran has an enormous amount of power both indirectly and also directly in terms of the incredible ties and infiltrations going on in the south of Iraq, that there’s Iranian presence in Afghanistan too (inaudible) that the Lebanon war arguably gives Iran an enormous stake in politics and the argument on the left (inaudible) and that, you know, willy-nilly going to war in some of these places may have strengthened the Iranian hand in the region?

SECRETARY RICE: I don’t doubt that if we fail to challenge the trends that you have just outlined, that Iranian – you will have an ascendance of Iranian power in the region. But you have to look at also from the Iranian point of view they have a new neighbor in Afghanistan and they have a new neighbor in Iraq with American forces in both. They have a counter model developing in Iraq to the legitimacy of the Iranian revolution and the Iranian regime which, if it succeeds, will be a Shia-majority, non-theocratic with Najaf as its center with a claim to leadership of the Shia world that Iran could only hope for.

Excerpts from a Fox News interview by E.D. Hill with Democratic Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper:

REP. COOPER: The truth is, E.D., that President Karzai is little more than the mayor of Kabul, and the country of Afghanistan is as big as Texas. So most of it has become the biggest dope-growing country in the world, and that's under our supervision. That's a terrible problem because that pumps billions of dollars a year into Taliban- type movements.

Pakistan is also a huge problem because we know that they not only want nuclear weapons, they've got them, and they have missile delivery systems. And we've never been able to get real access to A.Q. Khan, the nuclear mastermind who we know has pumped weapons into North Korea and other terribly dangerous places around the world.

So U.S. policy in this region is not doing very well right now.

MS. HILL: Well, it sounds like you're skeptical about the true intentions of the leaders of in particular Pakistan, but also Afghanistan.

REP. COOPER: A lot of Americans don't realize that Pakistan has a population today that's bigger than that of Russia, and they already have nuclear weapons, and they don't control most of their territory in Pakistan. Baluchistan is a province in particular where there's very weak central government control.

So it's a very troublesome area. We think that Osama bin Laden is in one of these two countries. We can't tell which one. And it could be that Pakistan is actually harboring one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world.

This is from Robert Rubin's introduction of Musharraf at a Council of Foreign Relations Meeting:

It is now my honor, privilege and pleasure to introduce our speaker. As you know, the custom of the Council on Foreign Relations is not to read from the speaker's biography -- that's all in your material. But, as you can see by reading it, he has had a truly illustrious and distinguished career.

Let me, however, begin with one personal observation. It seems to me that all of us need to understand a great deal more than those in our country tend to know about Pakistan, the Muslim world, the meaning of democracy in the context of countries very different from our own, and the perspectives of those whose experiences and circumstances are, again, very different than ours. In all of these respects, in my view, the recently published memoir, "In the Line of Fire," by President Pervez Musharraf, is a truly remarkable, insightful and thought-provoking book. I mentioned to the president a few moments ago I not only read it, but I bought it. (Laughter.)

I don't know if reading this memoir will change your conclusions and judgments about the many issues it covers, but what it will surely to is provide you with perspectives, with views, with insights around a set of extraordinarily important and complex issues that are different from the views that we hear in ordinary life, and are missing in many of the discussions and opinions that we hear in the world that we live in.

The book also gives you a sense of a remarkable man and his thinking and his vision on a broad array of issues as he leads his country, a country that is critically important to all of us at a time when what happens in Pakistan is of immense importance to the global community.

One more comment. When Shaukat Aziz, my highly respected former colleague at Citigroup, was appointed first finance minister by the president's administration, he came to my office and he said, "What is it like to be finance minister?" And so I said, "Oh, it's a piece of cake." (Laughter.) Well, if you read this book, you will find that being finance minister, and obviously multiples more being president of Pakistan, is not only an enormously important job in terms of the well being of all of us, but it is also immensely complex because of the context in which it occurs.

So now, without further ado, it is my privilege and honor to introduce the president of the Muslim Republic of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. Mr. President. (Applause.)

I'll post excerpts from Musharraf's Council of Foreign Relations speech, and appearances on Fox's Hannity and Colmes and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart tomorrow.


Musharraf #??? at Amazon

So much news it's hard to pack it all in.

(sorry that's the best opening i can muster as i try to absorb the 101 stories breaking every which way but loose in the midst of a massive public relations blitz accompanying a Military coup leader's visit to America, while questions about harboring, selling nukes or surrendering to terrorists are confined to outposts on the Internet instead of on the front pages where they belong)

Regarding Sunday's 60 Minutes interview with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, from the Pak Tribune:

The Bush administration is "very satisfied" and "quite comfortable" with the way Islamabad has handled the issue of nuclear scientist A Q Khan’s proliferation network, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has said.


President Musharraf brushed aside the suspicion that since no one in the outside world has been allowed to talk to Khan because he may have something to say about the participation of the Pakistani army in the sale of nuclear technology.

"That is absolutely not the case. The President or Mr. George Tenet, they are very satisfied and they are quite comfortable with what we have done," Musharraf remarked making the point that Pakistani people would not have tolerated a long trial and prison sentence for A.Q.Khan.

From Monday's Today show interview with Musharraf regarding the "Stone Age" comment:

Well, Richard Armitage is a good friend of mine. But whatever happened that day was told to me by my director general of ISI, my intelligence boss, who was here. I didn't have a contact with Mr. Armitage. It was only the statement given to me by the DGISI. And I clarified this thing in the book.

From Musharraf's In the Line of Fire: A Memoir, as excerpted at the Times Online:

When I was back in Islamabad the next day, our director-general of Inter Services Intelligence, who happened to be in Washington, told me on the phone about his meeting with the US deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage. In what has to be the most undiplomatic statement ever made, Armitage added to what Colin Powell had said to me and told the director-general not only that we had to decide whether we were with America or with the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age.

This was a shockingly barefaced threat, but it was obvious that the United States had decided to hit back, and hit back hard.


This was a ruthless analysis which I made for the sake of my country. Richard Armitage’s undiplomatic language, regrettable as it was, had nothing to do with my decision. The United States would do what it had to do in its national interest, and we would do what we had to in ours. Self-interest and self-preservation were the basis of this decision. Needless to say, though, I felt very frustrated by Armitage’s remarks. It goes against the grain of a soldier not to be able to tell anyone giving him an ultimatum to go forth and multiply, or words to that effect.

Back to Musharraf's interview with Matt Lauer on NBC's Today show:

MR. LAUER: Obviously it's generated a lot of attention for the book. But in Andrea Mitchell's piece, she said this is more about what's happening in Pakistan than what happened in that meeting after 9/11. She says it's your own or some people say it's your way of saving your skin back home, that you need to be able to say to the groups in your country -- and, by the way, you write in your book that a majority of people in Pakistan disagree with your cooperation with the United States in this war on terror -- this is your way of saying to them, "I'm cooperating with the United States, but only because they pointed a gun at my head."

PRESIDENT MUSHARRAF: No, not at all. That's not the case. It is very clear, and I explained in the book, that we did whatever we did in the interest of Pakistan. I'm not doing anything specifically for the interest of others. Basically it is in Pakistan's interest that I took the decision, and not in any -- and it's not the case of somebody pointing the gun on my head or anything.

Please. Enough with this nonsense. The Bush Administration was friendly with Musharraf before and after 9/11.

But I did get a kick out of this opening line from a Times of India article:

Pervez Musharraf may be a commando by training, but he still might not want to run into former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, a Vietnam vet (three combat tours) who is rumoured to bench press 400 lbs, in a dark alley.

These parts, too:

"It will be noted that President Musharraf made this comment while he is beginning a book tour," Armitage said on the sidelines of a US-South Korea Security Forum in Seoul. "I think you have ample reason to see why he might want to use this language. I think it probably sells books."

Meanwhile, according to the Pakistani media, Mahmoud Ahmed spoke to Musharraf on phone from the Pakistan Embassy in Washington after his meeting with Armitage the message he broadly conveyed in Urdu was "wo hamari eent se eent baja dey gain". Roughly translated, it means, they will take us apart brick by brick.

Now on to the important stuff.

From Times Online:

President Musharraf of Pakistan says that the CIA has secretly paid his government millions of dollars for handing over hundreds of al-Qaeda suspects to America.

The US government has strict rules banning such reward payments to foreign powers involved in the war on terror. General Musharraf does not say how much the CIA gave in return for the 369 al-Qaeda figures that he ordered should be passed to the US.

The US Department of Justice said: “We didn’t know about this. It should not happen. These bounty payments are for private individuals who help to trace terrorists on the FBI’s most wanted list, not foreign governments.”

The revelation comes from General Musharraf’s memoir, In the Line of Fire, which begins serialisation in The Times today and will further embarrass the White House at a time when relations between the US and Pakistan are already strained.

It's the Times Online which should be embarrassed. Because they completely miss the bigger picture.

From the conservative National Review article, "Empty evidence," written by Corine Heglend and published as the cover story on February 3, 2006 (which I blogged about this past September 11):

After all, despite the rhetoric, most of the men at Guantanamo, or at least the 132 with court records and the 314 with redacted transcripts, came into American custody by way of third parties who had their own motivations for turning people in, including paybacks and payoffs.


Some of the men at Guantanamo came from targeted, U.S.-guided raids in Pakistani cities, and the cases against those men tend to be fairly strong. But the largest single group at Guantanamo Bay today consists of men caught in indiscriminate sweeps for Arabs in Pakistan. Once arrested, these men passed through several captors before being given to the U.S. military. Some of the men say they were arrested after asking for help getting to their embassies; a few say the Pakistanis asked them for bribes to avoid being turned over to America.


"The one thing we were never clear of was where they came from," Scheuer said of the Guantanamo detainees. "DOD picked them up somewhere." When National Journal told Scheuer that the largest group came from Pakistani custody, he chuckled. "Then they were probably people the Pakistanis thought were dangerous to Pakistan," he said. "We absolutely got the wrong people."

As the Times Online could have put it, "We absolutely bought the wrong people."

A little bit more from that National Review stunner which no mainstream media outfit has ever bothered to adequately follow up on:

Tribes in the border region and operatives in Pakistan's intelligence service were historically sympathetic to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Almost certainly, they aided senior Qaeda and Taliban members fleeing Afghanistan. At the same time, Islamabad was eager to strengthen its new alliance with Washington. The Americans wanted prisoners, and nobody was looking too closely at who those prisoners were.

Add a healthy dollop of cash spread around by both hunters and prey, and a U.S. military bureaucracy dedicated to protecting Americans against a threat from an unfamiliar corner of the world, and you have an unsettling formula for determining who got caught and who got away. It was "win-win," Haqqani said. "The Americans get their prisoners, Pakistanis get their praise, the guy who captures the prisoners gets his reward, and Al Qaeda gets its escape."

(hat tip to the farmer for the title to this post which I stole from a comment he left here the other day)


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Stone Age Discord


Breaking news from the Telegraph article, "Omar role in truce reinforces fears that Pakistan 'caved in' to Taliban," written by Massoud Ansari and Colin Freeman:

The Taliban's one-eyed spiritual leader, who has a $10 million price on his head for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks, signed a letter explicitly endorsing the truce announced this month. The deal between the Pakistani authorities and pro-Taliban militants in the tribal provinces bordering Afghanistan was designed to end five years of bloodshed in the area.

In return for an end to the US-backed government campaign in Waziristan, the tribal leaders - who have harboured Taliban and al-Qaeda units for more than five years - agreed to halt attacks on Pakistani troops, more than 500 of whom have been killed. The deal has been widely criticised as over-generous, with no way to enforce the Taliban's promise not to enter Afghanistan to attack coalition troops.

The disclosure that Mullah Omar personally backed the deal will come as a fresh embarrassment to Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, who met President Bush in Washington on Friday to discuss security in the region.


"Had they been not asked by Mullah Omar, none of them were willing to sign an agreement," said Lateef Afridi, a tribal elder and former national assembly member. "This is no peace agreement, it is accepting Taliban rule in Pakistan's territory."


Of course, Pakistan was quick to deny the report:

The government on Saturday denied a report by a British newspaper that the peace agreement in Waziristan was endorsed by Taliban leader Mulla Omar. “There is no truth to the story. We strongly deny that the peace deal with the tribesmen was signed with the consent of Mulla Omar. There was no outsider involved in the agreement,” Senator Tariq Azeem, state minister for information, told Daily Times. He said the peace deal was offered to the tribal elders a long time ago and a recently held jirga of the elders of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) accepted the government’s offer and agreed to sign the peace agreement.

Senator Tariq Azeem is having a crazy weekend, he also had to deny a coup rumour:

Pakistan's government rejected "rumors" of a coup against President Pervez Musharraf that circulated after power failures struck cities, including the capital, Islamabad.

We don't know where these rumors came from, there is no truth in them," Tariq Azeem, the minister of state for information, said today by telephone from Islamabad. "People tell me they came because of power failures. The power has been restored to most parts of the country." The breakdown was because of a technical fault at one of the major transmission lines, Azeem said.

Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in October 1999, has been out of the country attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown by military leaders Sept. 19 in a bloodless coup that took place while he was in New York.

A couple more items from Pakistan's Daily Times worth mentioning.

5 injured in South Waziristan attacks:

Four tribesmen including a militant commander and a paramilitary soldier were injured in separate attacks in a restive tribal area bordering Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday. The vehicle of local militant commander Khanan struck a roadside bomb which injured him as well as three others in Shakai village of South Waziristan district on Sunday, a local security official said. It was not clear who planted the homemade bomb which was detonated by remote-control, the official said. Separately, a paramilitary solider was wounded when a rocket fired by militants late on Saturday struck a military camp in Wana, he said.

It's beginning to sound like Iraq over there, perhaps Musharraf's holistic strategy needs some adjustment.

Coup rumours cause anxiety and confusion:

President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s medical check up in a Texas hospital and a countrywide power breakdown combined to spark rumours of a military coup in the country on Sunday.


Information Minister Muhammad Ali Durrani said Gen Musharraf visited a friend who is a cardiologist at the hospital and he suggested the president be examined. “He is as fit as a horse,” Mr Durrani said.

However, in Pakistan, various rumours went around stating that the president had been poisoned, had had major heart surgery, or had been "detained" by the US for revealing the Bush administration’s threat to bomb Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks. A nationwide power breakdown in the afternoon then led to further confusion and anxiety, with speculation rampant that someone called General Saleem had staged a military coup and the assemblies had been dissolved.

(Note to self: Before publishing, remember to add a joke here about Musharraf hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney)

From ‘Wo eent se eent baja dein gay’, ISI DG told Musharraf:

Richard Armitage, Daily Times can confirm, did not use the words attributed to him by President Pervez Musharraf in a CBS 60 Minutes interview, namely that unless Pakistan did American bidding, it will be bombed into the “stone age”. However, neither the President of Pakistan, nor Richard Armitage, who has denied using such language, nor President Bush who said he was “taken aback” when he learnt what had been said, is being untruthful. What actually happened was that after his meeting with Richard Armitage, Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed – who now wears a long, white beard and has reportedly gone Tableeghi – called Gen Musharraf from the Pakistan embassy in Washington. The conversation took place in Urdu and when the president asked him what the bottom line of the American message was, Gen Mahmood replied in Urdu that the Americans were intent on the removal of the Taliban regime and would not let Pakistan stand in their way and if Pakistan did not fall in line and cooperate, “wo hamari eent se eent baja dey gain” or words to that effect. That being so, President Musharraf’s recollection of the conversation with Gen Mahmood, who was then the director general of the ISI, is accurate, only he translated into English what he had been told in Urdu.

(Note to self: Before publishing, remember to add a joke here about the last word in the title of that article without being offensive)

From Pakistan is not a banana republic: Musharraf:

President General Pervez Musharraf on Sunday termed rumours of a coup in Pakistan as nonsense. "Pakistan is not a banana republic. Everything is normal. There is no coup," he said while talking to reporters on Monday.


He denied having information about Osama Bin Laden saying, "I do not comment on things I don’t know about."

I'm still not finished with the Clinton and Musharraf post that I had promised for last Friday, and it might be a few days until I finish it.

Until then...

This Bill Roggio article, "al-Qaeda, Taliban behind the Waziristan Accord" is a must-read, so must-read that I'm not even going to post excerpts from it (oddly enough, the Pakistan website that Roggio extensively quotes from was hit by a hacker yesterday).

Joseph Cannon has a great post called More on bin Laden's death, which utilizes extensive quotes from Bush officials and mainstream newspaper reports over the last five years to scarily suggest "that the Bush administration engineered Osama's escape" from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

If you want to know my thoughts on the reported Armitage "Stone Age threat" to Pakistan after 9/11, Luke at wotisitgood4 front paged a comment I left there:

The motive was to deflect attention from the fact that the Waziristan treaty was indeed agreed to with al Qaeda reps....the fact that the pact has been broken on a daily basis by militant attacks on the government, the press and "US spies"....the fact that Pakistan let as many as 2500 taliban and qaeda prisoners go including one of the daniel pearl killers.

It's bullshit...Pakistan backed the US immediately after 9/11...they were the first almost... And Armitage didn't meet General Mahmood alone...the pakistan ambassador was there and others...

(read the rest of my comment at wotisitgood4)

By email, Luke sent me this November, 2001 article which reported a slightly different version of the "Stone Age" comment:

"The choice is up to you," Colin Powell’s right-hand man, Richard Armitage, is said to have told Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, who has since been replaced as chief of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, during a September 11 visit to Pakistan’s embassy in Washington. "Help us and breathe in the 21st century along with the international community or be prepared to live in the Stone Age."

But I'd like to add that this L.A. Weekly article is wrong about when Musharraf offered "unstinted cooperation" to the U.S.

Wrong in the very first line of the article, in fact:

On September 13, one day before Pakistan decided to support the United States in the war on terror, Islamabad airport was sealed off.

As the Washington Post reported on September 13, 2001:

Pakistan's ambassador in Washington, Maleeha Lodhi, said she gave [Richard L. Armitage] a message from [Pervez Musharraf] assuring the United States of "Pakistan's unstinted cooperation in the fight against terrorism." Musharraf later told the APP news agency in Pakistan today that he would give the United States his full cooperation.

One day after September 11, 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell wasn't exactly rattling the saber against Pakistan for harboring terrorists:

We have not made a determination yet as to who is responsible for yesterday's attack, but we thought as we gather information and as we look at possible sources of the attack, it would be useful to point out to the Pakistani leadership at every level that we are looking for and expecting their fullest cooperation and their help and support as we conduct this investigation and as we generate more information, and see if they can be helpful in generating information, as well as how helpful they might be if we find a basis to act upon that information.

Finally, for something from the other side, here's excerpts from an essay written by a Pakistani complaining about CNN and Bush Administration "signals" for "new violations" of Pakistan sovereignty (as written for Pakistan's The Nation and linked at Watching America):

President Musharraf's revelation that the United States had threatened to "bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age" makes official what many already knew. And the American arrogance continues, with President Bush declaring that if U.S. intelligence was sure that Osama bin Laden or other terrorist leaders were hiding here, the White House would unilaterally order military action inside Pakistan to take them out. The implication is that the U.S. would feel no need to either inform the Government of Pakistan, or seek its permission. This latest reflection of U.S. arrogance came during Bush's interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Given the poor quality of U.S. intelligence, especially its human intelligence, and its misuse of intelligence, we in Pakistan should now expect, if politics in Washington so demand, the U.S. military to violate our sovereignty. After all, this is an election year for the Congress and Republicans are sliding in the polls. While the Foreign Office has stated that the United States cannot enter Pakistan to "hunt for Osama," to refute Bush's statement would require a response from the highest levels of our political and military leadership. Without such a rejoinder, even Karzai's bellicosity will increase - as was reflected in his speech before the U.N. General Assembly.

What is so ominous about Bush's statement is that it follows a two-week long campaign of Pakistan-bashing by CNN, with one newsreader referring to Pakistan as Qaedastan. Up to now, the Government of Pakistan has made no protest nor taken any action to deal with CNN's Nic Robertson, the journalist most responsible for distorting facts and reporting half-truths while reporting from Pakistan itself. In fact, one hears that Mr Robertson is given extensive access in Islamabad, both political and in terms of protocol. In any case, it is clear that CNN's propaganda blitz against Pakistan was timed to create the proper media environment for Bush's statement - and most likely Karzai's statement to the U.N. General Assembly.

According to Shireen M. Mazari, "NATO and U.S. military in Afghanistan want to deflect attention from its failures by focusing on Pakistan, making a U.S. military incursion into Pakistan quite likely."

I seriously doubt that.


Friday, September 22, 2006

NBRA: Many White & Black FReepers

From my Raw Story article, Black Republican group's ad accuses Dems of starting KKK, claims MLK was Republican:

A radio advertisement running in Maryland, produced by the National Black Republican Association, has been drawing heat for claiming that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was really a Republican and that Democrats opposed all civil rights legislation from the 1860's to the 1960's and were responsible for starting the Ku Klux Klan.

Although it doesn't mention any candidates, the advertisement is being aired to support Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele as he runs against 10-term Congressman Benjamin L. Cardin for the first open Maryland Senate seat in two decades. Last year, Democratic Senator Paul Sarbanes announced that he wouldn't be seeking reelection to a sixth term.

The 60-second advertisement is shaped as a casual conversation between two African-American women, with one explaining to the other how Democrats have "bamboozled" blacks into believing that their party has done more for the civil rights movement than the Republican Party.


The AP also notes that the NBRA "describes itself on its Web site as 'a resource for the black community on Republican ideals'" but "does not say how many members it has."


[Journalist-blogger Steve] Gilliard told RAW STORY that the ad was particularly offensive because "it assumes that blacks are unsophisticated voters, who are driven by emotion," when Maryland just "may have the highest concentration of blacks with advanced degrees on the planet."

"So to try and rewrite history is insulting," Gilliard added. "People know the history of the two parties and this is just offensive."

You have got to go to Raw Story to hear this advertisement, if you haven't already.

At the Free Republic Website, user JulieRNR21, a friend of NBRA president Frances Rice, often puts up posts with the latest National Black Republican Association news and revisionism.

From a thread asking for help to fund "local chapters to build a network of black Republican activists across the country whose growth and activities will be supported by the NBRA," JulieRNR21 notes:

Many white as well as black FReepers have joined the NBRA.

And later in the same thread:

Many FReepers (of all colors and ethnicity) are joining NBRA to support their Grassroots Campaign to educate Blacks that the Republican Party is where they belong!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shame On Bill Clinton

So if a teaser falls on a blog and no one is there to see or hear it, is it more or less of a tease?

To be continued on Friday...

(Hint: The shame is related to the same topic I've been reporting on for the last two weeks here)


Apologies...but I assumed I would be able to find a transcript for a speech to be used in this article...but I'll have to do it myself so this article is still coming soon.


US: Pakistani Pact 'Positive or Neutral'

Last Thursday, Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, gave a speech at the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) on the "U.S. Foreign Policy Toward South Asia," and also answered some questions from the audience.

Although Boucher's speech attracted some small media attention, Anwar Iqbal at appears to be the only reporter to take note of the explicit endorsement of Pakistan's peace deal with pro-Taliban militants in Waziristan (hat tip to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at the Counterterrorism Blog for the link).

Boucher praised the effort to such an extent, that he could only foresee Pakistan's arrangement as a "positive" or "neutral" one.

Excerpts from a partial trancript I made of Boucher's comments on Pakistan from audio at the SAIS website:

What effect does the Pakistani pact with villagers gonna have with local tribes in tribal areas? We hope a positive one. We think the overall effort is a good one.

This part of Pakistan along the border - the tribal areas - has been governed under special arrangement way back into the British times, and those arrangements were sort of translated across the departure of the British into the new modern Pakistan. And they - the govenments have agents that operate in these areas but mostly leaves local law in the hands of the tribal groups, and they have to assert authority.

And so rather than have the government challenge them for authority, the government worked out an arrangement, an agreement with the local tribal leaders that they will support development. They will allow this local authority to exist as long as this local authority is used to good ends to develop the area and bring peace to the area, and that there should be no Taliban operating across the border there. There should be no Al Qaeda presence there. There should be no Talibanization of other areas outside.

And so on those conditions the government concluded an arrangement with the local leaders. Now can they make those provisions effective is gonna depend on - determine if it's a positive thing or a neutral one. I think it's a positive step in the direction proceeding which is to develop a political understanding there to bring the benefits of economic development to these regions and we're working with them on that...

(More to come, I haven't finished the partial transcript yet)

Although, the event was open to the public, and members of the media were invited to cover the speech, Boucher refused to take a question from a reporter with UPI, saying that he was "happy" to see the press there, but was only there to talk to the students and not hold a press conference.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Armitage Hearts Musharraf

A few weeks ago, in an Op-Ed published by the LA Times, Selig S. Harrison, director of the Asia program at the Center for International Policy, wrote that Pakistan President "Musharraf's most vocal defender is former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage."

More excerpts from Harrison's Pakistan: Friend or Foe? column:

Musharraf's most vocal defender is former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who has urged continued support for him "no matter how frustrated we become at the pace of political change and the failure to eliminate Taliban fighters from the Afghan border." Musharraf is better than what might come after him, Armitage argues, and is a moderate who has done his best to fend off the entrenched forces of Islamic extremism in Pakistan.

But this argument does not hold up against mounting evidence that, as an ally, Musharraf has been an opportunist from the start who has continued to help the Taliban (just as he had done before 9/11 ) and who has gone after Al Qaeda cells in Pakistan only to the extent necessary to fend off U.S. and British pressure.

"You've got Pervez Musharraf, who is a great leader in my view in Pakistan, trying to bring a nation of 160 million into enlightened moderation," Armitage told Charlie Rose in June.

Armitage in August of 2002 on Musharraf:

"Well, we do believe that President Musharraf is a man of his word and we’re going to treat him as such and treat his word with all the care which it deserves," said US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, appearing late Friday on PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer programme.

In August, Armitage co-wrote an Op-Ed with former deputy assistant secretary of state Kara L. Bue entitled "Keep Pakistan on Our Side."

On Sept. 12, 2001, the United States gave Pakistan a stark choice — be with us or against us. Understanding the dangers and opportunities of this choice, President Pervez Musharraf chose to stand with America, and since then he has taken tremendous steps to fight Islamic extremists and move Pakistan toward enlightened moderation.


It is critical that Pakistan not be shortchanged in our engagement in the region. While India is clearly important to us for its strategic and economic promise, the success of Pakistan holds the key to stability in the region and perhaps throughout the Muslim world. Were Pakistan to fail, there would be no hope for Afghanistan, a dimmed future for India and an increased threat of Islamist terrorism globally.


As the Sept. 11 Commission correctly pointed out: "If Musharraf stands for enlightened moderation in a fight for his life and for the life of his country, the United States should be willing to make hard choices too, and make the difficult long-term commitment to the future of Pakistan."

As Armitage and Bue neglect to point out, in December of 2005 the 9/11 Commission followed up on the Pakistan recommendation in their 9/11 Public Discourse Project, and gave the U.S. government a C+ in their graded report for failing to "support Pakistan against extremists."

From the Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations:

U.S. assistance to Pakistan has not moved sufficiently beyond security assistance to include significant funding for education efforts. Musharraf has made efforts to take on the threat from extremism, but has not shut down extremist-linked madrassas or terrorist camps. Taliban forces still pass freely across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and operate in Pakistani tribal areas.

In a November of 2005, Vice Chair Lee H. Hamilton talked about how "disappointed" the commissioners were that Pakistan remained a "sanctuary for terrorists":

Taliban still pass freely across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and operate in Pakistani tribal areas.

Terrorists from Pakistan carry out operations in Kashmir.

Full cooperation with the United States in hunting down Usama Bin Ladin and his supporters has not been forthcoming.

Madrassas with known links to terrorist groups have not been closed down.

Finally, promised democratic reforms are not in evidence.

Perhaps, I should also "point out" to Armitage and Bue that the Sept. 11 Commission correctly used the conditional "if" when they wrote about Musharraf's alleged belief in "enlightened moderation."

More from Armitage's August Op-Ed in the Times:

We believe General Musharraf continues to stand for these principles and deserves our attention and support, no matter how frustrated we become at the pace of political change and the failure to eliminate Taliban fighters on the Afghan border. It was such short-term thinking that almost led to the derailment of the F-16 deal in Congress.

Instead of threats, we should increase our senior-level interaction with Pakistan across the board, involving cabinet secretaries beyond those representing the State and Defense Departments and placing a new emphasis on trade issues.

Perhaps, "a new emphasis on trade issues" could benefit a petroleum company such as Conoco-Phillips, to which Armitage was recently elected to the board of directors.

Or maybe ManTech International Corporation, "a leading provider of innovative technologies and solutions focused on mission-critical national security programs for the Intelligence Community and the Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, Justice and other U.S. federal government customers," where Armitage also sits on the board of directors.

Or maybe Japanese bioscience firm Transcutaneous Technologies where Armitage also sits on the board of directors.

Or maybe himself.

His co-writer for the Times Op-Ed, Kara Bue is also a founding member of Armitage International, which provides "multinational clients with critical support in the areas of international business development, strategic planning, and problem-solving."


In October of 2003, Armitage held a joint press conference in Pakistan with Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri.

"I assured our friends here in Pakistan and last week in New York that anything we do that affects Pakistan, we are extraordinarily sensitive about," said Armitage in 2003. "We understand in full the concerns, the sensitivities of Pakistan."

"We do not feel that anything we are engaging in will disrupt the status quo where it is detrimental to Pakistan," Armitage assured America's "ally" against terrorism.

Status quo.

From President Bush's press conference on Friday:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Earlier this week, you told a group of journalists that you thought the idea of sending special forces to Pakistan to hunt down bin Laden was a strategy that would not work.


Q Now, recently you've also --

THE PRESIDENT: Because, first of all, Pakistan is a sovereign nation.

Q Well, recently you've also described bin Laden as a sort of modern day Hitler or Mussolini. And I'm wondering why, if you can explain why you think it's a bad idea to send more resources to hunt down bin Laden, wherever he is?

THE PRESIDENT: We are, Richard. Thank you. Thanks for asking the question. They were asking me about somebody's report, well, special forces here -- Pakistan -- if he is in Pakistan, as this person thought he might be, who is asking the question -- Pakistan is a sovereign nation. In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we've got to be invited by the government of Pakistan.

Secondly, the best way to find somebody who is hiding is to enhance your intelligence and to spend the resources necessary to do that; then when you find him, you bring him to justice. And there is a kind of an urban myth here in Washington about how this administration hasn't stayed focused on Osama bin Laden. Forget it. It's convenient throw-away lines when people say that. We have been on the hunt, and we'll stay on the hunt until we bring him to justice, and we're doing it in a smart fashion, Richard. We are. And I look forward to talking to President Musharraf.

Look, he doesn't like al Qaeda. They tried to kill him. And we've had a good record of bringing people to justice inside of Pakistan, because the Paks are in the lead. They know the stakes about dealing with a violent form of ideological extremists. And so we will continue on the hunt. And we've been effective about bringing to justice most of those who planned and plotted the 9/11 attacks, and we've still got a lot of pressure on them. The best way to protect the homeland is to stay on the offense and keep pressure on them.

Thus continues the sensitivity status quo.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bush's 'Newsdump' Friday Date

The White House officially announced today that President Bush would meet with his Pakistan and Afghanistan counterparts when they visit the United States to attend the U.N. general assembly later this month.

But it will be separate dates.

Bush's date with Karzai is scheduled for September 26, a Tuesday, while Musharraf will be dropping by the White House on a "newsdump" Friday, September 22.

According to the White House:

President Bush will welcome President Pervez Musharraf of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the White House on September 22, 2006. The two Presidents last met during President Bush's historic visit to Pakistan in March. The two leaders will review developments across the spectrum of our strategic partnership, including progress in bilateral cooperation in energy, education, science and technology, economic development, counterterrorism, and advancing freedom and democracy.

Perhaps the two can talk about this weird incongruity...

Remember the other day when Musharraf told the European Parliament that the Taliban were a larger threat than Al Qaeda because it "has its roots in the people?"

Color me confused after reading this article in The Telegraph called "US outraged as Pakistan frees Taliban fighters," written by Isambard Wilkinson:

Pakistan's credibility as a leading ally in the war on terrorism was called into question last night when it emerged that President Pervez Musharraf's government had authorised the release from jail of thousands of Taliban fighters caught fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Five years after American-led coalition forces overthrew the Taliban during Operation Enduring Freedom, United States officials have been horrified to discover that thousands of foreign fighters detained by Pakistan after fleeing the battleground in Afghanistan have been quietly released and allowed to return to their home countries. Pakistani lawyers acting for the militants claim they have freed 2,500 foreigners who were originally held on suspicion of having links to al-Qa'eda or the Taliban over the past four years.

The mass release of the prisoners has provoked a stern rebuke to the Musharraf regime from the American government. "We have repeatedly warned Pakistan over arresting and then releasing suspects," said a US diplomat in Islamabad. "We are monitoring their response with great concern."

Um. I expect their response will be to deny, deny, deny.

The same response Musaharraf's military government gives to every "bad news" story. The same response that this one usually gives, too.

(Update: Milblogger Bill Roggio has scary details on some of the foreign fighters released by Pakistan)


BAM: Bush, Afghanistan, Musharraf

Welcome to another edition of "World say one thing, Pakistan/Bush Administration say something else."

From an AFP article at Pakistan's Daily Times:

The Afghan government on Wednesday rejected remarks by President Pervez Musharraf that the Taliban had its “roots” in the Afghan people, saying it was a creation of Pakistan. Musharraf made the comment in Brussels on Tuesday, and said that Afghanistan’s Taliban militia had become more dangerous than the Al Qaeda network. “Everybody knows that the Taliban were created as a political, military movement by Pakistan’s intelligence ... and is still being supported by certain circles across the border,” an Afghan Foreign Ministry statement said.The president’s latest remarks were “entirely far from the truth, unfriendly and opposite of those commitments that he made during his last visit to our country,” the statement said.

"Musharraf and [Afghanistan's President Hamid] Karzai are expected to meet President Bush when they visit the United States this month for the U.N. general assembly," reports Reuters.

Got a lot to discuss, I suppose.

Musharraf's been on a roll lately:

In a speech to the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Tuesday, Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf blamed the United States and the West for "breeding terrorism in his country by bringing in thousands of mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and then leaving Pakistan alone a decade later to face the armed warriors," according to an article at Pakistan's Daily Times published on Wednesday.

Back to the latest 'Where's Osama bin Laden' articles...

The Asian Times reports he's on the move (in a "double-cabin truck"?):

Osama bin Laden is on the move, and Tuesday's terror attack on the US Embassy in the Syrian capital, Damascus, could be a tangible result of this.

Exclusive information obtained by Asia Times Online shows that the al-Qaeda leader recently traveled from the South Waziristan tribal area in Pakistan to somewhere in the eastern Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nooristan, or possibly Bajour, a s mall tribal agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Area of Pakistan in North-West Frontier Province.

According to a witness, bin Laden traveled in a double-cabin truck with a few armed guards - not in a convoy. Apparently, this is how he now prefers to move around.

You absolutely have to visit the link to see the silly cartoon which accompanies this story. I don't know. Maybe Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief Syed Saleem Shahzad is playing some kind of April's Fools Day gag...but if not I sure hope someone somewhere will be talking to him to find out more about what the "witness" saw. But it seems strange that Osama would take flight from Deadwood, Pakistan right after a hands-off treaty had been signed.

The Guardian has more on the "cold trail" which the Washington Post reported a few days ago:

Guessing the location of bin Laden's lair is the favored parlor game of South Asia, played out on the 2,400km Pakistan-Afghanistan border where the participants -- spies, soldiers and journalists -- believe he is hiding. It is a massive and daunting arena. Scraps of intelligence and educated guesswork slim the odds, but not much. Theories shift with the seasons. Three years ago, some put bin Laden in Pakistan's Waziristan, nested behind serried ranks of flinty pro-Taliban fighters. Last year it was Bajaur, a tribal agency further north, where a group of harried Arabs were spotted lugging supplies up a mountainside. This year's hot bet is closer to the Chinese border, in Chitral.

Strange how all the theories center on places in Pakistan isn't it?

More from the Guardian:

Peaceful, mountainous and sprawled across the lower Himalayas, until recently Chitral's main attractions were hiking, rare falcons and a rather rough version of horse polo. Then, one day last winter, three Americans arrived, and all that changed. The strangers checked into the Hindu Kush Heights, a luxury hotel with sweeping views over Chitral's main valley. The owner, Siraj ul Mulk, a genial former air force officer and a prince of the local royalty, offered his help.


As it turned out, the Americans were only interested in one tourist. By last May, word spread that the CIA or the FBI -- nobody was ever sure which -- had come to Chitral on the trail of bin Laden. Locals grew angry. A cleric organized protests and a politician kicked up a fuss in parliament. Reporters snooped around a house that the now-absent Americans had rented, noting a fitness machine and a satellite dish on the porch. The Americans never came back, leaving locals scratching their heads and wondering if the bizarre episode was a blessing or a curse.

"I'm thinking of spreading new Osama rumors," says Ul Mulk sardonically. "It seems a good way to bring in visitors."

What's up with the fitness machine?


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

How Many Awakenings Until Bin Laden?

Dan Froomkin's online column for the Washington Post reports about "Bush and the 'Third Awakening'," but I'm more interested in the Pakistan stuff which Peter Baker briefly noted at the end of his Post article:

The White House did not release a transcript of Bush's remarks, but National Review posted highlights on its Web site. On another topic, Bush rejected sending more troops to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas to find Osama bin Laden. "One hundred thousand troops there in Pakistan is not the answer. It's someone saying 'Guess what' and then the kinetic action begins," he said, meaning an informer disclosing bin Laden's location.

This is the full excerpt from National Review's The Corner:

I'm going to tell you that it is essential that American Presidents get the information that was gathered, that we gathered, in order to protect this country. The way you win the war on terror is to find people and get them to give you information about what their buddies are fixing to do. You know, this thing about, well, let's put 100,000 of our special forces stomping through Pakistan in order to find bin Laden is just simply not the strategy that will work. What works is somebody, somewhere, saying, oh, guess what — and then a kinetic action takes place.

How disingenuous of President Bush.

Rather than sending 100,000 troops to search for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan how about sending Task Force 121?

According to North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) Governor Jan Orakzai, "Pakistan does not need US-led coalition forces based in Afghanistan to help them capture Osama Bin Laden on home soil."

From Pakistan's Daily Times (hat tip to Bill Roggio for the link):

“If Osama’s presence is confirmed in any part of our area adjoining Afghanistan, or for that matter anywhere in Pakistan, we have these troops stationed there to carry out that job,” the governor told a press conference. “We have not deployed our 80,000 troops for nothing. They are there for a purpose,” he said. “We are guarding practically all the possible crossing routes.”

“We have our friends with electronic intelligence,” Mr Orakzai said. “We have our own means of electronic intelligence. And the political administration has its own intelligence system.”


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

White House Buys Off Media Again - Film At Eleven

Guest blogger: Michael Hussey

The Bush administration continues the tradition of Armstrong Williams and Medicare ads made to look like news stories. The White House gets it's good press the old-fashioned way. They pay for it with tax dollars.

MIAMI, Sept. 8 — The Bush administration’s Office of Cuba Broadcasting paid 10 journalists here to provide commentary on Radio and TV Martí, which transmit to Cuba government broadcasts critical of Fidel Castro, a spokesman for the office said Friday.

The group included three journalists at El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister newspaper of The Miami Herald, which fired them Thursday after learning of the relationship. Pablo Alfonso, who reports on Cuba for El Nuevo Herald, received the largest payment, almost $175,000 since 2001.

The Bushies keep getting caught and they keep paying off members of the media. The General Accounting Office ruled on the Medicare ads that they " violated the prohibition on using taxpayer money for propaganda." Besides, they are plenty of people at the National Review and Weekly Standard who would be more than happy to shrill free.


Monday, September 11, 2006

'We absolutely got the wrong people'

From Sunday's Chicago Tribune:

Pakistani authorities have arrested more than 700 al-Qaida operatives in the last five years, including four major ones.

Associated Press on Sunday:

Pakistan was a strong supporter of Afghanistan's former Taliban regime, but switched sides after the Sept. 11 attacks. Since then, Islamabad has arrested more than 700 al-Qaida suspects, including some close associates of bin Laden.

From Vice President Dick Cheney's interview with Tim Russert on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday:

The fact is we've captured and killed more al Qaeda in Pakistan than anywhere else in the world in the last five years. President Musharraf has been a great ally

How soon we forget...

Excerpts from the conservative National Review's article, "Empty evidence" written by Corine Heglend and published as the cover story on February 3, 2006:

But National Journal's detailed review of government files on 132 prisoners who have asked the courts for help, and a thorough reading of heavily censored transcripts from the Combatant Status Review Tribunals conducted in Guantanamo for 314 prisoners, didn't turn up very many of them. Most of the "enemy combatants" held at Guantanamo -- for four years now -- are simply not the worst of the worst of the terrorist world.


After all, despite the rhetoric, most of the men at Guantanamo, or at least the 132 with court records and the 314 with redacted transcripts, came into American custody by way of third parties who had their own motivations for turning people in, including paybacks and payoffs.


Some of the men at Guantanamo came from targeted, U.S.-guided raids in Pakistani cities, and the cases against those men tend to be fairly strong. But the largest single group at Guantanamo Bay today consists of men caught in indiscriminate sweeps for Arabs in Pakistan. Once arrested, these men passed through several captors before being given to the U.S. military. Some of the men say they were arrested after asking for help getting to their embassies; a few say the Pakistanis asked them for bribes to avoid being turned over to America.


Just wanted to pull out one line: "But the largest single group at Guantanamo Bay today consists of men caught in indiscriminate sweeps for Arabs in Pakistan."

"The one thing we were never clear of was where they came from," Scheuer said of the Guantanamo detainees. "DOD picked them up somewhere." When National Journal told Scheuer that the largest group came from Pakistani custody, he chuckled. "Then they were probably people the Pakistanis thought were dangerous to Pakistan," he said. "We absolutely got the wrong people."

The sweeps in Pakistan did pick up a few Qaeda members, but most of them were low level. People familiar with Pakistani politics agree that in the chaos of the war, simple foot soldiers or innocent bystanders were more likely to wind up in American custody than were senior operatives. "It was helter-skelter, and it was perfectly possible innocents were arrested, while a lot of guilty guys knew how to evade [capture] and had the means to do so," said Husain Haqqani, an adviser to three former Pakistani prime ministers who now teaches international relations at Boston University.

Tribes in the border region and operatives in Pakistan's intelligence service were historically sympathetic to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Almost certainly, they aided senior Qaeda and Taliban members fleeing Afghanistan. At the same time, Islamabad was eager to strengthen its new alliance with Washington. The Americans wanted prisoners, and nobody was looking too closely at who those prisoners were.

Add a healthy dollop of cash spread around by both hunters and prey, and a U.S. military bureaucracy dedicated to protecting Americans against a threat from an unfamiliar corner of the world, and you have an unsettling formula for determining who got caught and who got away. It was "win-win," Haqqani said. "The Americans get their prisoners, Pakistanis get their praise, the guy who captures the prisoners gets his reward, and Al Qaeda gets its escape."


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday's 'Stone Cold' Pakistani Denial

When I wake up on Sunday I expect to read the latest Pakistani denial about a US media report.

Even if it comes before you get the chance to read this lengthy Washington Post article entitled Bin Laden trail 'stone cold,' make sure you take the time to read every word and not just rely on the excerpts that are about to follow, because Dana Priest and Ann Scott Tyson have one helluva story here.

Excerpts that focus on Pakistan's role with regards to the "stone cold" trail:

The clandestine U.S. commandos whose job is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden have not received a credible lead in more than two years. Nothing from the vast U.S. intelligence world -- no tips from informants, no snippets from electronic intercepts, no points on any satellite image -- has led them anywhere near the al-Qaeda leader, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.


Intelligence officials think that bin Laden is hiding in the northern reaches of the autonomous tribal region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This calculation is based largely on a lack of activity elsewhere and on other intelligence, including a videotape, obtained exclusively by the CIA and not previously reported, that shows bin Laden walking on a trail toward Pakistan at the end of the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001, when U.S. forces came close but failed to capture him.

Many factors have combined in the five years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to make the pursuit more difficult. They include the lack of CIA access to people close to al-Qaeda's inner circle; Pakistan's unwillingness to pursue him; the reemergence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan; the strength of the Iraqi insurgency, which has depleted U.S. military and intelligence resources; and the U.S. government's own disorganization.


The Pakistani intelligence service, notoriously difficult to trust but also the service with the best access to al-Qaeda circles, is convinced bin Laden is alive because no one has ever intercepted or heard a message mourning his death. "Al-Qaeda will mourn his death and will retaliate in a big way. We are pretty sure Osama is alive," Pakistan's interior minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao, said in a recent interview with The Washington Post.


A Muslim country where many consider bin Laden a hero, Pakistan has grown increasingly reluctant to help the U.S. search. The army lost its best source of intelligence in 2004, after it began raids inside the tribal areas. Scouts with blood ties to the tribes ceased sharing information for fear of retaliation.

They had good reason. At least 23 senior anti-Taliban tribesmen have been assassinated in South and North Waziristan since May 2005. "Al-Qaeda footprints were found everywhere," Interior Minister Sherpao said in a recent interview. "They kidnapped and chopped off heads of at least seven of these pro-government tribesmen."

Pakistani and U.S. counterterrorism and military officials admit that Pakistan has now all but stopped looking for bin Laden. "The dirty little secret is, they have nothing, no operations, without the Paks," one former counterterrorism officer said.


Pakistan will permit only small numbers of U.S. forces to operate with its troops at times and, because their role is so sensitive politically, it officially denies any U.S. presence.

If this next part's true, then it would be good (but I seriously fucking doubt it):

McChrystal, who has commanded JSOC since 2003, now has the authority to go after bin Laden inside Pakistan without having to seek permission first, two U.S. officials said.

"The authority," one knowledgeable person said, "follows the target," meaning that if the target is bin Laden, the stakes are high enough for McChrystal to decide any action on his own. The understanding is that U.S. units will not enter Pakistan, except under extreme circumstances, and that Pakistan will deny giving them permission.

Again, read the rest of Tyson and Pulitzer-winning Priest's latest at this link.

In case you missed it...

(...and I'm sure you did because it isn't scheduled to air on ABC this weekend...)

CNN reported late Friday that "one-eyed Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who heads the religious militia fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, is living in Pakistan, though not in the same area where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is thought to be, according to a U.S. intelligence source."

Excerpts from CNN's report:

The elusive Taliban leader is believed to be in Quetta or its environs, a city of one million that is the capital of Baluchistan province in southwestern Pakistan.

The intelligence source said of Mullah Omar's location: "At one point we had it down to a particular section of Quetta."


U.S. officials have been saying for some time that another of the world's most wanted men -- Mullah Omar's close friend and advisor, bin Laden -- is believed to be in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area, and the intelligence source who spoke of Mullah Omar offered a specific location for bin Laden, as well.

The source said that bin Laden is likely in Bajuar, a sparsely populated remote tribal region on the northern Afghan-Pakistan border, bordering Chitral. That is a region that a U.S. military intelligence official has identified to CNN in the past as a strong possibility for the location of al Qaeda's leader.

There is no mention of Bajuar in Priest and Tyson's "cold trail" story, and I'm not saying that this means anything, but the last intelligence that tied together Bajuar and al Qaeda didn't turn out so good.

From a Newsweek article published in January:

U.S. officials don't want to act rashly—especially in remote Pakistan, where American forces are not supposed to be operating. But, says former White House counterterror official Roger Cressey, "you've got to take that shot." So when a U.S. surveillance team got a tip that Al Qaeda's long-hunted No. 2, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and fugitive Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar were at a house in a village in the Bajur tribal region, the United States pulled the trigger. An unmanned Predator drone tracked the guests, then fired six missiles, destroying three houses and killing at least 18 people.

U.S. counterterror officials were optimistic last weekend that Zawahiri, or possibly another Qaeda big shot, had been there. But the Pakistani government said no, and locals and officials interviewed by a NEWSWEEK reporter who traveled to the distant village, Damadola, said the Americans acted on bad info. "I personally saw the 18 victims," Parliament member Haroon Rashed, who lives about a mile away, told NEWSWEEK. "Most of them were women and children. They were all locals. There were no foreigners."

Anyway, like clockwork, on Saturday, Pakistan already denied CNN's story.

CNN reports:

Taliban leader Mullah Omar is not hiding in Pakistan, a Pakistani military official said, disputing a Friday CNN report that he called "ludicrous."

Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said he is "quite certain" Mullah Omar is in Afghanistan. The CNN report, he said, is "baseless."

"These reports are ludicrous because we haven't got any evidence of the presence of Mullah Omar in Pakistan over the past many years," Sultan said. "We are quite certain that Mullah Omar is not present in Pakistan and that he is present inside of Afghanistan."

Sultan was reiterating a statement released earlier by the Pakistani government, which said there was no evidence that Mullah Omar was in Pakistan and that the news report was a "baseless and concocted story and nothing but mere figment of reporters' imagination."

The fact that "such sensitive information" turned up on the news rather than official channels "is a good enough indication that it is nothing but an effort to create sensation, and has no reality," the statement said.


If there were "actionable intelligence" that bin Laden is in Bajuar, "we would certainly go for him," [Sultan] said.

To be continued, basically, when Pakistan says so.


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